Summer 1997 Letter
Our very dear friends,
About 3½ years ago, we (our family) suffered the death of a loved one. We were totally unprepared for this loss. It was so devastating, and our grief and confusion so great, that we couldn’t even share it with you, our very dear friends. Some of you who were closest to us may have wondered why it seemed that we withdrew a bit from you. We hope we haven’t offended or hurt anyone, but we had to deal with this privately.
We had known and cherished this loved one since birth – even before – as our parents and grandparents had, also. Indeed, our lives were wrapped up in this loved one. And so, the loss, when it came – so unexpectedly – shattered and shook our whole world. We went through all the stages of great grief: Denial, first. Frantic, almost terror-stricken denial. No! This can’t be true! We don’t want to believe this! We can’t handle such a loss! But the truth of this devastating news was irrefutable.
The truth of it finally forced us to face it, even when everything in us screamed, no! Then came anger. Anger that we must face this loss, anger even at truth forcing us to believe it. Then sorrow. Pain. Hurt. Emptiness. We felt bereft, as reluctant acceptance finally came.
Friends, this “loved one” that we lost was our belief in “the Truth.”
As most of you know, all three of our kids professed; we all loved “the Truth.” We counted it a great privilege to have meeting in our home in Hebron, (CT) and it was by far the hardest thing to part with when we moved. (My secret consolation was that perhaps we would have that privilege here in VA eventually, too.) I loved being an elder’s wife! I loved the nurturing, the caring for our little “flock.” I loved each one of them dearly, and it was my sincere desire to see them prosper in “the Truth.”
We prayed for them, fed them (literally – nearly every Sunday someone stayed for dinner), enjoyed them (potlucks, picnics, get-togethers, sings). We sincerely wanted them to make our home, theirs. We were the nearest meeting then to the Navy and Coast Guard bases in Groton and New London, and we welcomed many a young lad far from his home, into ours.
We loved and “esteemed highly” the workers, who came quite often, and who we encouraged, too, to treat our home as theirs. From childhood, our whole focus was “the Truth.” We had an “open home.”
Many a prayer went up to God to help us be a “light” and draw others to “the Truth.” I was perfectly content in “the Truth.” Absolutely satisfied with my “place” as an elder’s wife and wanting only to fill it as God would have me. Only a short time ago did Sam confide that he had been actually quite uncomfortable about some things. He certainly covered it up well; I thought he made a great elder.
And now, dear friends, we are leaving “the Truth.” What has happened to us? This was unthinkable to us just a short time ago – as it is to you now. WHAT could change us so drastically?
The primary reasons can be supplied succinctly in three words: Truth. Honesty. Jesus.
From the cradle, we all were taught that this fellowship we call “the Truth” originated with Jesus, when He sent those first disciples out, and the workers have been following their example ever since. Obscure, unnoticed by the world, this “way” has endured since Christ. We were not as other, “worldly,” “false” churches – which were only started by men. We went back to Christ. Which made us far superior to all other “false religions.” As a child, I remember the old Irish workers, who were with us so much, reiterating this theme over and over, in our home and in meetings. In all the years since childhood, too, this message has been conveyed – more subtly, implicitly, perhaps, but definitely conveyed. We have never heard it refuted.
Primarily because of this – our going back to Christ, where all other churches were only started by men – we were in the Only Right Way.
Imagine our dismay, then, when faced with the undeniable, irrefutable FACT that “the Truth” did, after all, have a founder, whose name was William Irvine. Instead of the “shores of Galilee,” its origin was much nearer the shores of Lough Erne (in County Fermanagh, No. Ireland), and just 100 years ago this year, instead of 2,000. All kinds of details about “the Truth’s” history are available, and we’ve read them all. There’s proof galore – reams of it. Enough to convince the staunchest skeptic, for those courageous enough to read it.
Folks, I did not have the option (luxury?) of just dismissing this information as “lies.” Most of you know our strong Irish connections. You may not know that my dad lived on the farm adjoining Crocknacrieve Convention in County Fermanagh. I remember stories of him haying in the fields as a boy, and hearing the singing from the convention. When I began reading the articles from the local newspaper of that time, The Impartial Reporter, many familiar names and places from my childhood leaped out at me. Immediately, I knew I was reading about us – “the Truth.” I remember Dad and Uncle Ernest talking about those people – who were, to my surprise, the very first workers. Delving into my child memories, I even remember hearing the name William Irvine mentioned, albeit infrequently – and always with a hushed, strange aura about the conversation.
This is what I remember: After Mom and I had left the table, or when Dad and Ernest would be alone in the living room, it would always be Ernest who initiated the discussion, and usually Ernest did most of the talking – my dad only injecting a nod or an ‘uh-huh’ now and again. Ernest would be quite agitated, as those of you who knew him would know how he could get – and Dad would be trying to calm and quiet him – by minimum response to what he was saying. So I have to deal with the fact that my parents – at least, my dear dad – knew the true history, and was so intimidated by the enforced coverup, that he never dared to share the information. It also explains some of Ernest’s odd behavior, doesn’t it. Because in those days, if anyone spoke the truth about William Irvine being the founder, that was grounds for excommunication.
Reading The Secret Sect a couple years ago (an extremely factual book, not “evil”) also made the rest of the pieces of the puzzle slide neatly into place…
You may have received a long letter recently, which contained some of the historical details. Throughout the world, great efforts are still being made to conceal this information from the friends. (This includes telling the friends to burn, unopened, letters like this.) However, in areas where the reality of the evidence is well known and can no longer be denied, several theories have been circulated to recover credibility. One theory is that William Irvine was a prophet raised up by God. Completely overlooking the fact that for nearly a century we were told there was no founder, now that proof of his existence can no longer be hidden, we are to believe that God raised him up to restore “the Truth.” However, his own converts – the other workers – excommunicated him. Why?
Not only was he exerting too much power, but he was voicing some weird ideas. (William wrote hundreds of letters from his exile in Jerusalem to his loyal followers, who passed them down through the generations in their families. His thinking became strange indeed. I have copies of a couple of his letters.) Now, when confronted with that information, the next theory circulated is that God raised up men in the Bible who lost their anointing later, such as Saul, and William Irvine simply became another “Saul.” Doesn’t that defy common sense – that God not only would have planned such a momentous event, yet leave no record of it in the Bible, but that He would choose a “prophet” whose prophecies did not come true? (None of William Irvine’s did.) Also, God promised in many Psalms that His truth would endure to all generations – not skip nearly 2,000 years’ worth.
Back to our story: The shock of coming to terms with the reality of a founder slammed us into coming to terms with the fact that we had been “conned.” Folks, having a founder is not the issue. That we can accept. Telling us that there was none is the issue. Evasion is bad enough, but deliberately misleading a people with something you know right well is untrue – is worse. That’s deception; there’s no nice word for it. And on top of that, disparaging, mocking, ridiculing all churches who openly acknowledge their founder! Many times during my childhood I heard this coming from the lips of those I trusted the most, even idolized – those old Irish workers. Believe me, folks, coming to grips with THAT was traumatic – devastating! Now you understand the “death” I wrote of earlier.
But I am eternally grateful for that now, because you know where all this information sent me? To my knees, in desperate prayer – “Lord, if this isn’t right, please show me what is right!” Do you know what He showed me? Jesus. And the cross.
It wasn’t long before a couple letters came. One was from dear friends who had lived in Connecticut for many years and were very close to all of us. We raised our kids together. These folks were very “hearty”—had meeting in their home for years, took care of the workers’ mail, their master bedroom suite at all times reserved for the workers while they used a smaller one—had even been instrumental in bringing outsiders into “the Truth.”
By this time, we had moved to Virginia. But the friends in Connecticut
were told by the workers to burn, unread, any letters from this couple and to have nothing more to do with them. Why? Because they had learned of the history and were speaking out about it and about doctrinal issues.
As I am now. This is not acceptable. The truth is not acceptable in “the Truth.” How’s that for irony?
Friends, real TRUTH is not afraid of discovery. It stands proud and secure. It invites – welcomes scrutiny.
We simply could not dismiss this couple out of our lives. We had known and loved them too long. We were able to read a few letters – instead of burning them! Some things about grace in those letters, and about Jesus being Truth – and about the cross in another letter – sent me on some deep biblical research. (Remember, this was right after my desperate prayer to God to show me what is right.)
God revealed, first of all, His grace – His free mercy, His unmerited favor – His gift of eternal life through Christ. These are the verses that opened my eyes: Romans 3:23-4, Romans 11:6, and Galatians 2:21. (In other words, it’s impossible for man to be good enough. If we could earn salvation, Jesus wouldn’t have needed to die for us! And righteousness absolutely does not come “by the law” – by our following any kind of “rules.” If we believe that, then He has died in vain for us. This is very serious.)
Then God revealed His Truth, and it’s not a “way,” a fellowship, a method, or system. It’s Jesus. Only. All by Himself. In other words, Jesus is not a “package deal.” He doesn’t come wrapped in layers of 2×2 ministry and church in the home. As the letter you received pointed out, Jesus did not use a plural pronoun when He said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life…” “I am the door…” “I am the vine” … etc. To many professing people, the concept of Jesus being “packaged” together with “the Truth” is so imbedded, they are convinced that when you doubt “the Truth,” you also doubt God.
We have discussed this with several very close, and dear, friends. Some have asked us if we have talked to the workers about this. No, we haven’t. Why? Because if we did, we would not only become suspect immediately, but we would be put on a guilt trip for questioning – for seeking truth. Why do you want to feed your doubts? Why do you want to destroy your faith? (Faith in what? In God? Or in a system?) Friends who have sincerely, honestly, gone to the workers looking for true answers to perfectly legitimate questions have come away defeated, humiliated, crushed, even heartbroken. And that’s not all. The questioning does not usually remain confidential. “Warnings” go out – to discredit the asker – to the other friends. To discredit anyone who leaves “the Truth,” also. If you doubt this, search your own memories, or give me a call and I’ll give you several examples. Folks have felt like “lepers” afterwards.
So we decided not to go that route. (Cowards that we are!) Instead, we turned to the Bible – and to God. We are SO glad we did! We found He is all that the Bible promises – and more.
This letter began by speaking of a death. It is so true that God works in mysterious ways. Only after we had experienced the “death” of this “truth” that we loved so much – only then was He able to show us what was on the other side – LIFE, abundant life – in Christ. Real Truth does set you free! We were released from a bondage we had not known we were in. The precious promises of Jesus are so real to us now: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30) The joy of salvation. Peace. Assurance. Absolute trust in Him, our blessed Redeemer, who died to save us.
HE saved US, friends! “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saved us…” (Titus 3:5) “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved…” (Acts 15:10, 11) “Being justified FREELY by his grace…” (Romans 3:24) “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that NOT of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) “And this is the record, that God hath GIVEN to us eternal life, and this life is in his son.” (I John 5:11) And on and on and on.
And yet, professing folks continue to try to earn, or merit, salvation – trying and failing, over and over – trying to measure up to Christ – an impossibility – instead of trusting totally in what He did – in His finished work on the cross – trusting in the precious blood He shed on Calvary’s cross. How sad. What kind of relationship can we have with our Savior if we do not even trust Him to save us? All He endured for us – the mocking, the ridicule, the spitting (GOD! Spit on!!!!)… the whip slashing again and again on His bleeding back… the nails piercing the hands that had loved and healed and reached out again and again in compassion to needy souls… hands that had so recently carefully and lovingly washed 12 pairs of dirty feet… such a young man enduring so much agony… And that wasn’t enough? We must add our puny efforts to our salvation? Our little bit of self-denial? No, no, friends, there’s nothing we can do to earn our own salvation – or to add to what He did. Our precious Savior’s sacrifice was more than sufficient to save us. May we fall prostrate at the foot of the cross in thanksgiving and adoration!
May we praise the Lord for His mercies which are new – every morning!
Folks, I could go on for pages and pages – praising my Savior, whom I love and adore! When it comes to Jesus, I am very passionate! “Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan! Oh, the grace that brought it down to man! Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span … At Calvary!” (Hymn)
Dear ones, are you worried about doubting? Think about the most famous doubter of all – Thomas. In John 14:5, he was the only one courageous enough to ask Jesus what He meant. (You know how when a group of people are listening to a speaker who’s saying something none of them really understand, yet no one dares admit it? Well, Thomas was the one brave and honest enough to say, I don’t understand.) Then we find him in his famous doubting scene in John 20. After listening to his very close friends tell him they had seen Jesus in person, he couldn’t believe them.
Not unless he himself could see and touch would he believe! Now, there’s a doubter, a real skeptic. A week later…Jesus comes again, and this time Thomas is there. Jesus knows Thomas doubted; He even repeats exactly Thomas’s words of a week earlier. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus doesn’t chide Thomas – not one word in remonstrance for his huge doubting. Instead, Jesus gives Thomas reason to believe – proof, evidence, of His authenticity. Look, Thomas. Here’s proof. Touch the nail holes in my hands… Thomas’s doubting was not an impediment; rather, it turned out to present an opportunity to see and touch the risen Christ! Maybe we shouldn’t be afraid of doubts, of questioning. They may eventually enable us to see Jesus more clearly…
Professing folks believe in a “works” salvation – interpreting James’s “faith without works is dead” verse to mean that works are the criteria for salvation. In light of so many other verses which clearly state that it is not by “works of righteousness,” we need to carefully – and prayerfully – meditate upon that. This concept of grace versus works has always been a great stumbling block; it was to the Jewish Christians, also. Read Romans 4 and 9:30-33. And Galatians 3. And Col. 2:14-17, 20-22. It is the hardest concept for a legalistic thinker to grasp. “Works” are actually the fruit – or proof – or evidence – of salvation.
They follow salvation, not the other way around. And “works” are not following certain petty rules to maintain the approval of our peers and the workers – appearance, do’s, and don’ts. If you’ll read James carefully, he describes in detail what he considers “works,” i.e., not having “respect of persons” – preferring certain people over others, enduring temptation, keeping clear of all moral filth and the evil that surrounds us, keeping a tight rein on our tongues, and our anger, looking after orphans and widows (the needy), keeping oneself unpolluted from the world; don’t just talk about those who have physical needs, do something about it, etc.
And what about the Prodigal Son? (Luke 15) What did he do to deserve what his father gave him? Nothing. He didn’t deserve it, or earn it. He knew he was unworthy and acknowledged that. What was his father’s response? The young man didn’t even get to finish saying all he had planned to say. He didn’t even get to “…make me as one of thy hired servants.” His father interrupted him with the loving and joyous words, “Bring forth the best robe!…Put a ring on his hand!…for this my son was dead and is alive again! He was lost and is found!”
That is grace, friends – getting what we don’t deserve. You can bet that young man loved and appreciated his father forever after that! You can bet he couldn’t do enough for his dad then! So it is with grace. First, we accept the wondrous gift of salvation that God offers through Christ. Here and now. “And I give unto them eternal life…” (John 10:28) Then, such love and gratitude overwhelms us, that we want to serve – to “work.” But all the while, we’re resting in the peace and security of a known salvation. (I John 5:13)
A “works” belief system focuses on us – and our constant struggle to measure up. Grace puts the focus on Christ.
Now, will you let me tell you a bit about all the wonderful Christian ministries that we have discovered exist? Ministries dedicated to proving scientifically that creation – Genesis 1, verse by verse – is true. Even committed evolutionists are being convinced. Legal ministries – Christian lawyers volunteering their legal counsel to the needy. Ministries for moms. Ministries for teens, young people, children. Ministries for men, for women. For the homeless, the downtrodden, the sick and imprisoned. And on and on.
In the midst of a very “crooked and perverse” world, dedicated Christians are giving and giving – because of their love for the Lord and others. Not for personal gain, as we’ve always been told. (Yes, there may be those, too, but they’re far more rare than we’ve been led to believe.) The “wall of separation” that we hear so much about has not allowed us to find out what is out there. I know of young people offering to go as missionaries to foreign lands who have to earn their own airfare; the mission sending them simply hasn’t the funds. We have learned that money is not as important to Christians as we’ve been told it is – except to supply needs. (You might be surprised to realize that the New Testament addresses this necessity quite frequently. See I Cor. 16:1-3, Acts 11:29, 24:17, Romans 15:25-28, II Cor. 8:1-24, 9:1-14, Philippians 4:15-19.)
I have met people of faith at the University where I work – believers whose manner of life speaks unequivocally of the Christ within. Sam works with some whose lives reflect likewise. Never again could we be the judgmental “respecter of persons” we once were.
Many will speak of the “falling away” – in reference to people like us who leave “the Truth.” Folks, William Irvine fell away from the Faith Mission – and true Christian doctrine. There is a mighty falling away going on around us. This great country, founded as a nation under God by God-fearing men and established with biblical principles, is now experiencing a great falling away from Christianity – and from belief in God. Even in the religious world, unbelief is creeping in. In fact, some observers note that we are in a post-Christian era. It is likely the end times are indeed upon us. It is not for us to speculate, as even the angels in heaven don’t know the time, but the Lord’s plan will definitely be accomplished. There is fascinating reading in Christian bookstores regarding this – and the nation of Israel’s part in it.
This is convention time, and we have thought of you often. You would be hearing many testimonies of thankfulness for when folks first met “the Truth,” or when “God’s servants first crossed my pathway,” or for “God’s true way” (meaning this fellowship). You probably will hear more personal stories of how folks met “the Truth.” Tell me, my friends, how often do you hear thankfulness for when folks met Jesus, or for when Jesus came into my heart, or for when Jesus became my personal Savior? Think about that…
Our friends, before you tear up this letter in disgust and possibly even dismiss us from your lives, think: What would cause us to jeopardize our relationship with you – cause us to not only relinquish that which we once held so dear (“the Truth”) – but risk the reproach, and possible alienation, of all our lifetime friends? Here are the possibilities:
- We’ve lost our minds. [Yep, we’ve heard that one!]
- Menopause has me mentally unstable. [Heard that one, too!]
- *We’re “unwilling.” [We’ve been “willing” for 50 years and never – ever – dreamed of changing. Why disrupt our lives now?]
- *We’ve got a “wrong spirit.” Satan has us in his grip.
- We’re “bitter.” [Judge for yourselves. Does this letter have a “wrong spirit” – or does it tell the truth – which hurts? Can you really think Satan
has us? Does this letter sound bitter? Those of you who know us well, have you detected a wrong spirit, or bitterness?] * We’re following “men” – or “men’s ideas.” [Who are you following? Aren’t you following the beliefs of men – and women – who have taught you what to believe? You say you’re following Jesus. Well, so are we.]
- *We are “against ‘the Truth’.” [We’re against some of the basic doctrines of “the Truth.” We are in agreement with many (biblical) beliefs. Its people, most definitely including workers, we love and respect very much.]
- *We’re “against the workers.” [We’re not “against” any worker who does not know the facts about the history. We’re not “against” any worker who innocently is preaching what he/she sincerely believes is true. We do have a problem with any worker who is deliberately continuing to preach that this way is “from the beginning” or “goes back to Christ” or “has no founder” when he/she knows differently. You know, it’s much easier to persuade people to believe that you’re in the Only Right Way if you can get them to believe it goes back to Christ. We have a problem with workers “majoring in the minors” – stressing petty issues that have nothing to do with salvation, while ignoring serious sin.]
- *[We have a real problem with abusive workers – and elders – whose abuse has been carefully covered up and a mild “slap” given – but who have been allowed to continue in their positions, with no warnings to potential unsuspecting victims. Incredibly, sometimes guilt has been laid on the young victims for telling! It is a serious thing when keeping “the outside of the cup and platter clean” vastly overrides the devastation of young lives. Much has been hidden from us, folks.]
*None of the above. We are *conscientious objectors*. We are in agreement with the steadily growing number of ex-friends throughout the world who have conscientiously objected to dishonesty and an unscriptural doctrine – and been labeled “evil” and “anti-Christ” for doing so. We are conscientiously objecting to a doctrine which focuses on a fellowship, a ministry, a system, as ‘the way’ and ‘the truth,’ rather than Christ. This seems to be more important than what Jesus did for us.
We are conscientiously objecting to a doctrine which all but ignores the precious blood of Christ and focuses instead on His example, thereby burdening its believers with the weight of a lifetime of trying to be like Christ – without reliance on the significance of His blood, through which we have redemption. (Eph. 1:6,7, Romans 3:24-5, etc.) From those first blood sacrifices in Genesis 3 and 4 to the blood of the Lamb of God in Revelations, the Bible reiterates over and over again and again the significance of the redemptive power of His blood.
Folks, our convictions are so deep and so strong that we are compelled to do that which we would naturally HATE to do: We are hurting those we love and who love us, and risking at best the misunderstanding, and at worst the complete alienation, of the people most dear to us on this earth.
Dear friends and workers, don’t let anyone tell you we are taking the easy way out. This is the hardest thing we have ever done in our lives – bar none. Three and ½ years of intense Bible study, anguish of mind, tears, and heartfelt prayers have preceded this decision. We are not turning our backs on you. If anything, we love you more than ever. We will carry with us always the many, many precious memories we have of happy times spent with you. We would love that to continue, but we also are being realistic. (We anticipate shunning by most. We don’t want that, but realize it will probably be the price we must pay for our new, dearly won, beliefs.)
You are most welcome in our home at any time. Your phone calls are welcome. Your letters/e-mails are welcome. This was a bittersweet decision. We feel as Abraham must have, when, also past his youth, God called him away from his father’s house and those he held dear…
Loving and trusting the Lord more than ever,
(signed) Sam, Jeanie and Sharla Dudley
“…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…” Ecclesiastes 3:7
“Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.” Matthew 10:26
“In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” Ephesians 3:12
The Dudley’s Exit Letter was sent to 155 of their friends.